Policy & History

The American Embassy advocates U.S. government policies and interests in Djibouti.  We represent the United States and its people to the government and people of Djibouti.  We seek to understand and influence and report on issues in Djibouti as well as those affecting the Inter-Government Authority for Development and adjacent region of Northwest Somalia.  We provide consular services to Americans and visa services to non-citizens residing in Djibouti and northwest Somalia.

Djibouti in the Context of the Horn of Africa

The Republic of Djibouti plays a unique role in the Horn of Africa.  It is a fulcrum for regional access and transportation.  Djibouti has a vital strategic location, and strong cultural, economic and political ties to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf.  It is a meeting place for all with many friends and family members of all its neighbors.  Despite its small size, it has a strong influence on those neighbors, and their actions have a direct and immediate impact on Djibouti’s fortunes.

The Role of Djibouti

It has a vital port and railroad link to landlocked Ethiopia, and is the seat of the Secretariat of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD).  Djibouti’s territorial integrity and stability are essential to the transportation and communications network in the Horn of Africa.  In recent years, it has attracted many millions of dollars of new investment.  It is both a regional hub, an engine of economic growth, and an example for its neighbors.

The role of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development

President Ismael Omar Guelleh worked closely with former President Gouled who was instrumental in the 1986 founding of the regional grouping, IGAD.  IGAD includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.  The organization works to strengthen cooperation among its members in the area of food security and economic cooperation and integration.  In November 1996, IGAD expanded its mandate to include conflict resolution.  The organization is active today seeking to resolve conflicts in Somalia and Sudan.  Strong U.S. Government support for regional cooperation as a function of “helping Africa help itself” is a tenet of a U.S. Government policy.  The U.S. supports IGAD and African Union and U.N. efforts to resolve these conflicts.


Northwest Somalia/Somaliland

The self-declared “Republic of Somaliliand” established and sustained after the 1991 demise of Somalia’s central government has been the sole regularly functioning local government.  The IGAD Heads of State/Government in a communiqué issued at the March 1998 Summit exhorted the international donor community (the IGAD Partners’ Forum or “IPF”) to direct its development assistance to the “peaceful areas” of Somalia.  Today, IGAD, with African Union and U.N. support is seeking to bolster Somalia’s legitimate Transitional Federal Government and promote a peaceful political resolution of Somalia’s on-going conflict.

Djibouti – Transition to the 21st Century

President Ismael Omar Guelleh took office on May 8, 1999, after winning an April election that a panel of international observers judged as free and fair.  He was overwhelmingly reelected in 2005 after an election that was marred by the opposition’s refusal to participate.  Under his guidance, Djibouti is entering a new era, with hopeful signs for democratization and development.  The President has committed himself to reaching out to all sectors of Djiboutian society, to transparency, and to modernizing the government to attain economic and social development goals.  The 2006 regional and local elections, widely accepted as a positive, multi-party process, were a significant advance.

In 2002, the United States established what is now its only military base in Africa.  Over the intervening years, Djibouti has attracted major private investment in its port and in its service sectors and become a leader in regional efforts to embrace private sector fueled growth.

Today, having increased its spending on Education and Health to 1/3 of the National Budget, Djibouti is investing strongly in its people.  The challenge it faces is to increase regional stability and growth while ensuring its people benefit from the influx of new jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship.